Do you remember Kelvin Doe? He was the child prodigy from Sierra Leone who built his own batteries, an FM transmitter, a sound amplifier, a three-channel mixer and a mic receiver from garbage and his own tinkering skills. Kelvin even started to build his own radio station at the tender age of 15. Doe was even given a guest speaker slot on TEDxTeen at around the same time. He seemed to be the golden boy of 2012, but where is he now? Let's find out.
“They call me DJ Focus because I believe if you focus, you can do an invention perfectly.”
Doe formed a startup at the age of 20 called KDoe-Tech Inc as well as The Kelvin Doe Foundation. Since then he has been constantly tinkering with new devices and has a very active presence on Twitter.
His rise to prominence
Kelvin Doe was born in 1996 in a poor district of Sierra Leone's capital city of Freetown. He is the youngest of five children. This area is a very rough place to grow up and live in. Power cuts are common and lighting may only be relied upon perhaps once a week. These issues appear to have inspired in young Kelvin the desire to build his own electronics and help the plight of his community.
From the tender age of 10, he salvaged discarded electronic parts and products from dump sites after school. He would spend his time dismantling these pieces in order to figure out how they work. Kelvin would then take these pieces to assemble his own contraptions. His mother would often come home to find their living room looking like an electronic scrap yard.
Young Doe's love for inventing would quickly find him building his own battery to power lights, a multi-channel audio mixer. hand powered generator and FM Radio transmitter from his hoard of scrap parts. He would even help fix his friend's electronic devices. Young Kelvin Doe even used his radio transmitter to set up his own local radio station to play music under the pseudonym "DJ Focus".
His inventiveness could not be kept secret for long. After a TV appearance on a local station, his international fame would be cemented when he took part in the local Youth-oriented innovation challenge that was organized by David Sengeh, a PH.D. Student from the MIT Media Lab.
“It’s very inspirational. He created a generator because he needed it” says David Sengeh.
Kelvin goes to MIT
Sengeh invited Doe to MIT Visiting Practitioner's Program, as the youngest person to ever participate. His accomplishments and amazing experience were documented and went viral. Kelvin's journey inspired millions around the world and was, by all accounts, also watched by the then President of the United States, Barrack Obama.
Kelvin, with his team, managed to win the Global Minimum's Innovate Salone Competition in 2012. This was the inaugural school innovation challenge in Sierra Leone. His success saw him selected to travel to the United States in 2012. Whilst there he was invited to speak at the "Meet the Young Makers" panel for the World Maker Faire in 2012 in New York.
He also became the youngest ever "visiting practitioner" for the MIT International Development Initiative. Whilst at MIT Kelvin presented his inventions to students in two D-Lab classes. He also engaged with community members at MIT and participated in hands-on research at the MIT Media Lab. Doe also lectured at some undergraduate engineering classes at Harvard College.
Kelvin was later invited to give a talk at the TEDxTeen in 2012 to Harvard Students. "Creativity is universal and can be found in places where one does not expect to find it. Perseverance and Passion are essential to nurturing that creative ability," said Kelvin during the talk.
So where is he now?
Since 2012 we haven't really heard much about Kelvin, at least coverage of his life in the MSM. His Twitter account has been very active as well as that of his company, KDoe-Tech Inc. A quick perusal of either Twitter feed will quickly reveal that he is currently living and working in Ontario, Canada. Both he and KDoe-Tech are also set to release a new product, the KDoe light.
The KDoe Light is a collaboration with Omnivoltaic and was launched late last year. It is a solar light and phone charger with 165-lumen output and 30 hours of runtime at 25 lumens.
He has otherwise been spending his time attending seminars, meeting world leaders and generally inspiring other young engineers and entrepreneurs to follow their dreams. Unsurprisingly as he is now living in Canada, he was invited to meet and talk with Justin Trudeau.
He has otherwise been using his relatively high profile to shed light on some political issues around the world, primarily concerning himself with improving education in African nations.
Kelvin has become one of the most respected of young African inventors in the world. He has in his short career meet various world leaders including Trudeau and Ghanaian President Nana Afuko-Addo. He has been able to speak to many young people in Africa on many different platforms. In 2016, Kelvin became an Honorary Board member of Emergency USA. This is an organization with a mission to provide free medical care to victims of war and poverty around the world. Whatever Kelvin's future will look like is anyone's guess but at least for the meantime, it appears he'll be spending his time learning and living in Canada.